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COVID-19 support for the tourism sector

Find out what support is available to help tourism and hospitality businesses in the Highlands and Islands

Tourism and hospitality support and guidance 

For the most up to date information and support relevant to tourism businesses, visit the Find Business Support website.

The site includes information on: preparing to reopen tourism businesses, applying for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19; social distancing – what this mean for your business; business rates (non-domestic rates) changes and extra rates relief; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the job Retention support and deferring VAT and Income Tax payments, and business closures. 

We’ve set out some of the key funding schemes available below, but please ensure you explore the Find Business Support website to see the full range of support available that you could be eligible for and guidance on opening up safely.

  • Updated 13 October: Communities Leading in Tourism Communities Leading in Tourism is a personal leadership programme which will bring like-minded individuals together to maximise community-led tourism recovery and opportunities. This online course is open to individuals from community and tourism organisations across Scotland. You must apply through the Social Enterprise Academy.
  • 28 September: COVID-19 Ventilation Fund announced. Business premises will be able to access a £25 million package to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of transmission. Grants will target a wide range of high risk settings where people come into close proximity, including restaurants, bars and gyms, with support available to help companies undertake work such as the installation of carbon dioxide monitors and altering windows and vents. This fund is not open yet, more details to follow in the coming weeks which will be published on Find Business Support
  • 23 August: Scottish Tourism Leadership Programme is open to applicants who are based in Scotland and already working in tourism, this live (real time) online 3-day course is fully funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Napier University. There will be a particular focus on recovery and resilience, and the response to tourism's role in Scotland's net zero ambitions. Current leadership experience is not necessary. 
  • Updated 17 August: COVID-19 tourism and hospitality sector guidance has been updated by the Scottish Government. 
  • Updated 13 August: VisitScotland has published detailed information on what visitors can and can not do within the current restrictions when planning a break. 
  • Updated 30 June: Business Rates Relief The Scottish Government has introduced extra rates relief discounts to help owners of certain non-domestic properties, including businesses, deal with the impact of coronavirus.

    The discounts include:

    • 1.6% relief on all non-domestic properties in Scotland
    • 100% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
    • 100% rates relief for certain businesses in the aviation industry
    • Small Business Bonus Scheme 
    • Payment deferral
    • Support for water bills

    The 1.6% rates relief was available to non-domestic properties from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. This would have been applied automatically to your bill.

  • Updated 30 June: Temporary reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and hotel accommodation and attractions The UK Government is allowing VAT-registered businesses to apply a temporary reduced rate of VAT of 5% to certain products and services relating to:
    • hospitality
    • hotel and holiday accommodation
    • admissions to certain attractions

    The temporary reduced rate of 5% has been extended, and will now apply to transactions between 15 July 2020 and 30 September 2021. From 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022, a VAT rate of 12.5% will apply.

Please also look at our main financial support page for our most up to date list of all UK and Scottish Government support packages. 

Moment for Change - Get Tourism Ready

VisitScotland has created a useful list of guidance to help the tourism industry operate. 

How you continue to provide a safe environment for your customers and staff once open, is crucially important. There’s a lot to consider and we’ve worked with the Scottish Government and industry sector groups to bring you key requirements that need to be undertaken.

On 09 August Scotland’s protection levels were replaced by baseline measures. These apply across the country and all previous content for the tourism and hospitality sector guidance will be superseded by the baseline measures. Please refer to the central guidance and familiarise yourself with the detail. You will need to consider the guidance in relation to your business and, where necessary, make plans for how to implement them.

Go to

Update 25 June: We're Good To Go

VisitScotland Partners with National Tourism Bodies to Launch Industry Standard for UK Tourism.

A new UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike, as the sector works towards reopening has been launched. 

To obtain the mark businesses must complete a self-assessment online at including a checklist confirming they have put the necessary processes in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing, before receiving certification and the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in their premises and online.

Apply online today

Read more +

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) - Rebuilding Scotland's tourism industry together

Updated 21 August 2021

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has been created to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, chaired by VisitScotland. STERG’s immediate priorities are to support tourism businesses to recover from this unprecedented situation.

The COVID-19 National Action Plan has been published and continues to be updated as we progress through the different phases of easing out of lockdown. 

The recovery of the crucial £11 billion tourism industry requires a multi-agency approach, working with the tourism industry to help those affected today, tomorrow and in the future.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has created a single, joined-up, phased plan to not just combat the current issues but also look at how the industry could effectively recover once the lockdown is eased.

The STERG’s immediate priorities are to support businesses by providing information and reassurance; safeguarding employment, and helping them access financial assistance to maintain cashflow and secure a viable future.

Download the action plan from VisitScotland's website

You can also read more about STERG, its latest actions, meeting notes and how work is progressing to support the tourism industry recover. 

Latest STERG actions

STERG consists of COSLA, HIE, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and chaired by VisitScotland.

Tune Into Tourism

We're encouraging you to tune out of the high volume of webinars and online meetings, and tune in to our series of podcasts.

Our latest series involves a host of industry experts discussing how we re-open, re-connect, customer-led demand around rural tourism, and what responsible tourism means in these current times.

You can also catch up on all the episodes in our 'Road to Recovery' series.

Tune into Tourism

Cyclist stopped on the hills taking a picture of the scenic view on his mobile phone at Cairngorm National Park

National support for tourism and hospitality businesses

We recognise the extreme impact of COVID-19 on businesses operating in and reliant on the tourism sector across our region. We're working closely with the Scottish Government, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and our partner agencies to make sure all businesses impacted are represented as available support is developed.

The Scottish Government continues to develop support packages which are being provided by a range of public agencies, local authorities and partners. Daily updates are also available from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and VisitScotland.

exterior shot of Knockomie Hotel

Knockomie Inn

Find out how this Forres Inn is restarting its business after lockdown.

View case study


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